Rape Zombie: Lust of the Dead (2012) by Naoyuki Tomomatsu

Exploitation and absurdity through cheap special effects


By Don Anelli

In Japanese culture, it's certainly no secret that there's plenty of open taboos and cultural norms that give the country plenty of oddball practices and strange behavior. The marketing of any series of films with adult content, as 'Pink' films, extends back decades into the countries' filmmaking history and serves as a precursor to the fringe exploitation movement that spread throughout the country in the late 80s and early 90s. It exists to this day in the form of a small but dedicated group of individuals, including director Naoyuki Tomomatsu, who launched the 'Rape Zombie' franchise with this 2012 effort, Reipu Zonbi: Lust of the Dead.

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The women of Tokyo are experiencing a very bad day. A nuclear accident has released a deadly toxin into the air that turns any male around them into sex-craved zombies intent on raping any woman they find nearby. Officeworker Momoko, (Saya Kobayashi) and nurse Nozomi (Alice Ozawa) seek shelter in a Shinto Shrine, where they meet housewife Kanae (Asami) and school girl Tamae (Yui Aikawa), who have survived the attacks and start pondering on what to do with the situation. Finding a priest (Takeshi Kakazawa) hiding out inside, they realize that he hasn't turned yet due to his excessive love of anime which could be a potential defense against the virus. as this zombie-like status is found to start by attraction to women which anime fans have had that desire suppressed. As surviving women across Japan band together to fight off the ever-increasing horde of creatures, a far deadlier threat emerges that not only places the group in jeopardy, but also could put an end to all life in Japan.

This one wasn't that bad but did have its flaws. It presents a rather strong central group of characters that, shockingly, generate some nice audience empathy. Nozomi is the clear badass of the group, taking charge and offering leadership with her calm, yet stern demeanor in the face of the ongoing situation, as the early flashback showing her handling a horde of zombies coming after her and the other patients in her hospital, gives her a chance to highlight these skills nicely. Initially, Momoko appears as the cold-hearted skeptic, unable to accept what's going on, yet she gradually softens and becomes quite a worthwhile member of the team. Tamae is the more modern persona, who thinks she's in control of the situation, but her complete stupidity endangers the group and brings them further into contact with the zombie horde, because she can't live well enough alone in the situation. Lastly, Kanae is the shrieking, disbelieving flower in complete shock over the situation, and tries to get back in touch with reality as they all come together and try to survive.



When Tomomatsu puts some effort into it, he presents some rather fine work, where he manages to showcase the  intense and explicit work involved, in a rather calm manner. The cause of the outbreak and how it affects the population makes for a creepy premise and there's some rather chilling work here, showcasing the ugly truth for all involved here with dark action scenes against the theme of seeing the women being raped and having the others around them either save them or let it happen. While these did work, the movie does have some issues. The biggest problem is the fact that there's such a hard subject matter to take into account here. The film attempts to support the theory that women are there simply to have men have sex with them, as the chemical only affects men. Turning them into sex-crazed maniacs rather than flesh-eating hordes who will attack any and all women as often as they want, wherever they want, sends quite a strong message, and the continuous sequences showing multiple men abusing and raping women in incredibly explicit and sexual means doesn't come off in the best light. They often blur the line between exploitation and outright misogyny, showing girls getting raped in full-on close-up simply for the sake of the nudity, and it leaves a much more brutal and ugly tone in this one than there really should be.

As well, once it leaves the exploitative subject matter, there's a big flaw in how long this goes between attacks, as the mid-section of the film doesn't feature anything exciting. The girls are at their hideout watching the events of the world play out around them, which doesn't generate any kind of really interesting action to play out. It's somewhat dull in these sections, and that results in some serious pacing issues. However, there's plenty of fun once this generates into battles with the zombies, as there's a nice amount of action to be had here through gunfighting and hand-to-hand tactics to stave off the swarms. This tactic results in some really brutal and bloody sequences, with all the usual craziness expected here, which goes a long way to redeeming the film, and gives the kind of graphic bloodletting usually required in the genre, with the method utilized for getting rid of the men.

Although there's plenty to like here, it never fails to offer a series of strong, warm performances. Considering the subject matter doesn't offer the opportunity for great acting, it's Alice Ozawa who shines as the take-charge Nozomi and her no-nonsense approach to ensure the safety of the group in the zombie invasion. Likewise, Asami brings a memorable performance as the shell-shocked Kanae, still struggling to come to terms with the virus and how she's affected by it, and the slowly changing nature of her transformation. The two of them gives a nice central set of performances. However, it still boils down to an exploitation film and the fact that nearly every single woman in here gets fully nude at least once and gets subjected to what is essentially gang-rape by the swarm of zombies on-screen, does lower the acting quality considerably. In that fashion, the various inserts showing these events occurring around the country simply for the aforementioned purpose, do linger more than the acting quality from the main leads. The disparate group of women does show off their tender, comforting sides, along their tough, butt-kicking side, and that gives the movie some diversity, but it's all lost in the sea of sleaze and low-budget special effects.

Speaking of the low-budget special effects, that's another really big issue with the film. The zombies here look quite ludicrous, essentially sporting what looks like dark green or blue face-paint and then featuring runny blood-shot eyes for their zombie-dom. The effect is far from fear-inspiring, especially with the sight of them running around with their pants around their ankles chasing after the women. This is howlingly funny rather than terrifying, as it's really only the concept of the zombies seeking out a new victim to spread their disease that makes the whole scenario creepy at all, and in that regard, the zombies throughout here are a somewhat disappointing. Furthermore,  some really dodgy and lame CGI, mostly fireballs or cataclysmic explosions, really take the production down. The constant gore and bloodshed brings some of these issues back with some creative kills, in order to stop the spread of the virus successfully, so it does have some good points throughout here to bring this up.

Overall, this is certainly a rather odd and somewhat challenging film to go over. Its main theme of extreme, excessive rape makes it a hard sell for the average fan, and the way in which it continually shoves these issues at the viewer, can throw off plenty of offensive ideas. Still, going in knowing this is the style of cheap exploitative offering, and since it often fails to offend truly, due to the cheesiness and low-budget quality special effect, makes "Rape Zombie: Lust of the Dead" a somewhat enjoyable effort.


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Asian Film Vault: Rape Zombie: Lust of the Dead (2012) by Naoyuki Tomomatsu
Rape Zombie: Lust of the Dead (2012) by Naoyuki Tomomatsu
Exploitation and absurdity through cheap special effects
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